Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Republican malaise: Is Bush losing hold of his party on "the struggle between tyranny and freedom"?

Earlier today, while I was guest blogging at The Carpetbagger Report, a commenter asked about conservative reaction to Bush's 9/11/06 address. He wondered if Bush's "guaranteeing freedom and democracy for the Mideast" doesn't "frighten them" -- conservatives, that is.

Shortly thereafter, John Dickerson's latest piece was posted at
Slate. It looks at Bush's message and how Republicans might respond to it.

Here's what Bush is trying to do:

This was the culminating moment of a two-week effort to explain what's really at stake in the war on terror. President Bush used the broadest language possible. America is engaged in a battle for civilization and a defining mission of our generation. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan represent only the "early hour of the struggle between tyranny and freedom." By talking about the wide sweep of the conflict, Bush and his Republican allies hope to rally the country around his policies and frame the national security debate for the remaining days before the election. They are the big-picture party. Democrats may talk about difficulties in Iraq, but Republicans have their eye on the historical prize.

Are Republicans/conservatives into it? Do they buy it?

To fail at the second task of promoting democracy, the president argued, is as dangerous as failing at the first in Iraq. And yet the Republican members of Congress, who will be the stewards of the democracy program after Bush leaves office, don't talk about it much in their stump speeches. They usually mine presidential speeches for their own remarks, but you're not likely to hear them talk about clouds parting this election season. That's understandable. It's tricky enough trying to convince people to relink the war in Iraq to their personal security. It's political suicide to run for office promising an epoch-long battle to turn around the Middle East.

These are the politicians, of course, not the pundits and bloggers. The politicians have to face the electorate in a couple of months, whereas the pundits and bloggers can go on spewing their madness from the comforts of their ideologically pure echo chambers. Rogers Waters once described such militarism as "the bravery of being out of range". He was referring to civilian leadership in times of war, what we now call the chickenhawks, but his description also applies to the chattering class and to those in the blogosphere who seek to remake the world in their own image while wearing their pajamas.

Republican politicians will say the right things when they need money from Bush and the RNC, but, on the whole, they're running away from Bush's self-aggrandizing crusade. Even if they want to "stay the course" in Iraq, many of them surely want nothing of "the struggle between tyranny and freedom". Dickerson is right: That would be "political suicide".

On the blog side, I don't see much. Nothing at
Captain's Quarters, nothing at Balloon Juice (although John Cole dislikes Bush immensely), nothing at Redstate, nothing at Outside the Beltway (although James Joyner criticizes what he stereotypically calls "the radical fringe of the Angry Left" for its remembrance of 9/11 — who says 9/11 hasn't been partisanized?).

Sister Toldjah, whom I get along with quite well even in disagreement, is an exception: "Wow. That’s one of the best speeches the prez. has given on the WOT in a long time."

There you go. Some emotional 9/11 remembrances, some attacks on liberals and Democrats, but not much, if anything at all, about Bush's address. Makes you wonder, eh?

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